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Hot Peppers Alleviate Arthritis?

Posting Date: 05/15/2000

Q: I've had severe arthritis since I was 19, more than 48 years ago. I've been treated with dozens of drugs, but they have no effect, help for only a few months or cause allergies. Just one Motrin almost killed me.

An ancient doctor suggested I try hot pepper. Now I chop peppers into a coarse relish, soak them in white vinegar for three weeks to kill the pepper taste, and eat a tablespoon or two several times a week with meals.

With the hot pepper, I take two regular-strength Tylenol in the morning and two at bedtime. Before, I needed as many as eight 500-mg Tylenol tablets a day. I hope this helps someone else.

A: There are two possible explanations for your positive experience with hot peppers.

The ingredient that makes chili peppers hot, capsaicin, interferes with the breakdown of acetaminophen and may increase its levels. This could explain why you get the same benefit from a lower dose of Tylenol (acetaminophen).

Capsaicin has been used in topical treatments for arthritis for many decades. Though none of these liniments and rubs are cures, some people do find that they help to ease the pain.

We haven't heard before of people eating hot peppers to get the same benefit of arthritis pain relief, but we are pleased to know that it can be helpful.